2009 Bordeaux:The Top Ten Revealed
Thursday, 22 July 2010 by Stephen Browett
Where have all the blogs gone? Those who regularly read the Farr Vintners blogs might very well have been asking that question. With nothing published for the last six weeks you could assume that we've been putting our feet up but - far from it - June and July 2010 have been the two busiest months in the history of Farr Vintners! And the simple reason for that has been the extraordinary phenomenon that is 2009 Bordeaux.
When we visited the Médoc at the end of September 2009 we knew instantly that this was going to be a great vintage. The weather was quite simply perfect. Jean Michel Cazes of Lynch Bages told us that this was the first vintage since 1982 when it was still hot and sunny enough to spend the weekend on the beach at Arcachon in the middle of the harvest. Everything was ideal. Clean, healthy grapes were picked at optimum ripeness with no signs of rot or any other problems. It was a rare vintage in which nature allowed the wine-makers to work with perfect ingredients.
Needless to say, the fervour to buy the wines built up over the months following the harvest and, by the time that uber-critic Robert Parker had declared it the greatest vintage of his career, demand was at fever pitch. Despite our important allocations, there were many wines that didn't even make it to our web site as everything that we had was pre-sold. Even after the release of further tranches and the calling-in of favours in the Bordeaux trade, we now have only 3% remaining of all the 2009 Bordeaux that we bought! Sales currently stand at a breathtaking £55.6 million with orders still coming in every day. We believe that our sales figures this year are several times bigger than those of nearly all of our competitors.
We thought that customers would be interested to know which were our biggest selling wines in 2009. In order of number of cases sold, they are:
Running through the wines, here is my analysis of the reasons for their success:
Lynch Bages - traditionally our biggest allocation and one of the world's most popular classed growth clarets. There is a long history of releasing the wine en primeur at fair prices (the 2008 has risen from £360 to £600 in the last 12 months). It also happens to be the best Lynch since 1990!
Pontet Canet - an awesome wine with massive concentration that challenges the best of the "super-seconds" yet is considerably cheaper. With a potential 100 point score from Robert Parker this has been jumped on as a wine to buy en primeur because if it does achieve the magic 100 point score the price seems sure to double. Over 2000 cases sold so far!
Cos d'Estournel - an extraordinary wine made in Bordeaux's most modern winery and the shortest price favourite ever to be scored 100 points after Mr Parker's stunning review. "One of the greatest young wines that I have ever tasted". That short sentence says it all really.
Cantemerle - quite a contrast from Cos d'Estournel! This is the best value wine of the vintage. It has everything going for it - a good name, it's a classed growth, it has a great "best ever" Parker review and it's only £20 per bottle. With well over 1000 cases sold, this was a "no brainer" for most of our customers.
Grand Puy Lacoste - this is the wine that Robert Parker got wrong in 2009! Woefully under-rated, GPL 2009 is a fantastic Pauillac of 2nd growth quality and at half the price of Pichon Baron and a third of the price of Pichon Lalande. Customers have been attracted by the value for money and our strong recommendation as well as the consistent track record of this distinguished Chateau.
Lafite - need we say more? The hottest wine on planet Earth - thanks to seemingly insatiable demand from China. And because the mainland Chinese don't yet buy en primeur, there is sure to be an even bigger rush for it once the wine is physically available.
Mouton Rothschild - after Latour our favourite First Growth in 2009 and a wine that will rival or surpass the great 1982 vintage here. Amazingly we still have a few cases remaining. Cheaper than the 2000 and undoubtedly better - certainly the greatest Mouton since the 1986. Simply magnificent.
Leoville Barton - Anthony Barton once again provided us with the cheapest of the 3 Leovilles and at one third of the price of Lascases it's no wonder that we sold triple the quantity.
Leoville Poyferré - just pipping Lascases on the Parker score but coming out at less than half the price, this was a hugely popular wine that finished just behind neighbour Barton by a whisker in terms of number of cases sold.
Domaine de Chevalier - the greatest Chevalier ever? We rated this above its neighbours and the price was cheaper. This is a wonderful wine from Olivier Bernard (with a little help from Stephane Derenoncourt) and we are delighted that it made our top ten, selling well over 500 cases.
Just missing out on a place in the top ten were the great value Pauillac Haut Batailley (480 cases sold) and also Montrose which would have made the list if we could have bought enough to satisfy the demand. Best selling Sauternes were Rieussec and Raymond Lafon and best selling cru bourgeois reds were Phelan Segur, Les Ormes de Pez, Capbern Gasqueton and Tronquoy Lalande - remarkably all of which are near neighbours in Saint Estephe.
It was an extraordinary en primeur campaign for all of us at Farr Vintners with sales more than double what we achieved in the 2005 vintage. Some of us hardly saw our families for a month! We like to think that our allocation system of "pre-orders" and "wish-lists", under the control of Tom Hudson, worked well, and above all fairly, and most customers managed to get what they wanted. These wines might have been expensive (though not all of them) but what's for sure is that we, our children and maybe our children's children are going to have great pleasure drinking them over the coming years.